Barubary/Myria

April 15th, 2019
Lazy Bastard: Among many other things, you were a pioneer in Final Fantasy V hacking (including and especially for the translation) and had the same distinction for PSX hacking and reverse engineering (including writing tools related to Yaroze EXEs and showing up in the credits for just about every early PSX hacking tool project). What inspired you to get involved in these things, and how did you go about them?

Myria: In the mid-1990s, the American gamer community heard about how many Japanese games didn't come out in the U.S.  Final Fantasy 3 turned out to not be the third Final Fantasy.  We also learned of the various changes that the localization process had made to the games - making games easier, censorship, mistranslations...  All this was spreading thanks to the Internet.

Through IRC channels for "The Unofficial Squaresoft Home Page" (later "The GIA") fans, I met other fans of FF games and of emulators.  Some of them were involved with ROM hacking.

With the simple ROM hacks that had been floating around after the start of emulation came talks about translating games that weren't released in English.  Several groups formed, including RPGe.  I told them that I believed their approach to be flawed - that they needed to not just change game data, but code as well, in order to make an effective translation.  Some of us formed a subgroup for translating FF5 this way, and we were successful.

Around the same time as the FF5 translation, PSX RPGs had taken off.  Final Fantasy 7 was released in North America right around when I was wrapping up my part of the FF5 translation.  I got a PSX to play FF7.

I later heard about how you could connect a PSX Game Shark to a PC through a cable, and I used it to mess with PSX games.  I quickly learned MIPS assembly language, making such silly things as a walk-through-walls cheat code for FF7.  That led to other endeavors, such as patching out mod chip protections.

I actually wasn't very important in the PSX "scene".  I think what got me credited a lot was the little tool I wrote to convert games created with the Yaroze home development kit into executables that could be burned to CD and booted on modded PSX consoles.  It wasn't very important, so I don't know why I was mentioned a lot as you say.



Lazy Bastard: What is your favorite code or hack that you made?

Myria: I can't talk about my favorite one, which I made for my employer =)  But in things I did outside of work, I like most the part I had in the Luma3DS project: figuring out how derrek's boot ROM exploit worked, then doing the large brute-force required to execute it using a bunch of GPUs.

Among ROM hacks, I really loved the Breath of Fire 1 retranslation hack I never finished.  I did some crazy things in that hack.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wdLge5735vI



Lazy Bastard: What is your favorite code or hack of all time?

Myria: It's really hard to answer that.  There are a lot to choose from.  There are many ROM hacks now that are incredible in scope with a ton of work put into them.  Whether it's Kaizo Mario or the various randomizers out there, some really talented people have done amazing things.

The Breath of Fire 2 retranslation hack stands out as some of the best overhaul work someone has done to a game as a hack.  It's what inspired me to try to retranslate BoF1.



Lazy Bastard: Who would you say influenced you the most in the video game hacking scene? Who did you 'look up to' when you first entered the scene? (doesn't have to be the same person for both)

Myria: Ted Woolsey influenced me the most.  In fact, I credit him with pushing me toward my career.

I learned how much he had mangled the translations, particularly the character names, and was angry about it.  The lead character in FF6 is Tina, not Terra.  A reason I got into translation hacking is that I wanted to fix things - by force.  This led to me learning reverse engineering.

My Internet name, Myria, is partly a snub toward him.  I loved the Breath of Fire series, so I took a name from it - one of the names that Mr. Woolsey had changed in BoF1 for no apparent reason.

In terms of hacking scenes, probably the PSX hacker "nagra".  He was a lot better than me.  I like to think that we're about equal now, but back then I looked up to him.



Lazy Bastard: How did you get into hacking? Did you have any formal education or related work experience, or did you learn on your own?

Myria: I had been messing with computers since age 6 or so.  I had used GWBasic and QBasic, and later C and a bit of assembly language.  I was entirely self-taught up until college, but I probably would've been a successful programmer without college.

Note that I did the FF5 translation while I was in high school.



Lazy Bastard: What was your first code or hack?

Myria: A DOS blackjack game my parents played had manual-based copy protection where you had to enter a code from a dark red sheet.  I noticed in a hex editor that all the codes were inside the .exe file, so I changed all the codes to zeros and changed the prompt to say "type 00000 to start the game".



Lazy Bastard: What do you think is the most difficult type of code or hack to hack, and why?

Myria: Hacking modern systems is getting really complicated.  The hardware is complicated, the software has exploit mitigations, and they use cryptography such as digital signatures.  There may come a point not that long from now where systems are too secure to have a realistic chance to break.  iOS is quickly approaching this, for example.



Lazy Bastard: What is your favorite type of code or hack?

Myria: Game overhauls, where a huge amount of the game changes, showing the hacking / reverse engineering prowess of the creator.



Lazy Bastard: Which game did you find the most fun to hack, and why?

Myria: It's not a game per se, but the 3DS was a really fun console to hack.  There were so many bugs - just look at the firmware version history - and so many fun ways to mess with the system.  It also had a great library of games to play when not hacking.



Lazy Bastard: Aside from hacking and gaming, how do you like to spend your time?

Myria: Mostly lately, I'm watching speedruns and playing randomizers.



Lazy Bastard: What do you think must happen for the video game hacking scene to continue to thrive?

Myria: We need young people to become interested in these things like I was.  Also, we need to hope that console and computer companies keep making mistakes in security, because it's quite possible that future computers will only let you do things these companies let you do.



Lazy Bastard: Was there ever a code or hack you just couldn't get to work quite correctly (something you hacked/attempted to hack)?

Myria: Parts of FF5 I couldn't get right with the skills I had in high school.  I did silly things like using a lookup table to divide by 5 because I couldn't figure out how to do that in math.

I tried to find a way to make a DVD that could boot unsigned code directly on the original Xbox, but I never found a way.  There didn't seem to be any exploitable bugs in the filesystem driver, nor any flaws in the digital signature checking code.  Perhaps when quantum computers become viable, I could lay that one to rest.



Lazy Bastard: One last question: if you had one thing to say to current, aspiring, and future hackers, what would it be?

Myria: Try to keep what you're doing legal.  I had a close call with the Feds, though not over anything I've described here.